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Runners-up: Justified Season 3, Episode 4

“Devil You Know” was one of the more formally fascinating episodes I’ve seen the Justified creative team pull off; not because anything spectacular went down, but because of the depth it lent a group of characters that had previously been forced out to the margins. This episode was about, among other things, Dickie, Devil, and Loretta. It was about, for lack of a better term, the losers. Even they get lucky sometimes.

The Shot

Think of Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder as storms. We often marvel at their power, and sit in awe as they suck people in and spit them out (in the most charming, kick-ass way possible, of course). But we always travel on to the next person/victim/scumbag with them. “Devil You Know,” written by one of my favorite Justified scribes, Taylor Elmore, concerned itself with what they leave behind in their wake and how they change the people they come into contact with.

At this point, Dickie Bennett is just lucky to be alive, living through not only Hurricane Raylan, but a life spent being the runt of the Bennett litter. In prison, like the free world, he’s a target, with only Dewey Crowe standing by his side. His mother’s mythical hidden fortune, millions in cash funneled from the aborted Black Pike mining deal, has not only drawn the attention of Boyd Crowder, but, in this episode, bent prison guard Ash Murphy.

Mags’ millions, as well as many other of Harlan County’s secrets, seem to be stashed with Ellstin Limehouse in Noble’s Holler. This African-American community stronghold is considered impenetrable by lawman and criminal alike, making it a perfect place to keep secrets or hide dirty money.

While half of Harlan is on a scavenger hunt for the mining money, The Carpetbagger from Detroit is talent scouting. In an opening scene, the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, well-dressed early Scorsese fan recruits Devil, longtime Boyd Crowder muscle, to join in on his Three Point Plan for Harlan Domination. Despite the fact that Carpetbagger is selling the same deal as Boyd, just with less biblical vocabulary and old-timey oration, Devil goes all in, trying to recruit Johnny Crowder to help him mutiny on the Boyd.

In the end, Devil finally goes to hell, getting double-crossed by Johnny and gunned down by Boyd, who at least bestows some kind of perverted charity on Devil by putting him out of his misery.

It looked like Dickie was going to bite the dust in the episode, as well. But Ellstin Limehouse comes to the rescue. Something funny happens to Dickie on his way to yet another execution: He grows up. When it’s time for him to accept his — albeit shrunken — inheritance, he turns it right around, giving it back to Limehouse and demanding he “put it to work.” Finally, Dickie, the gimpy Fredo Corleone of the Bennett clan, doesn’t want to live off his mother’s name; he wants to make his own.

The Kick

  • We still have a pretty serious sadism problem in Kentucky, man! Just wanton executing of criminal co-conspiracies. God, even organ harvesting! Maybe I’m getting older or maybe the Justified staff just feels like they need to top themselves, but whatever happened to just a bunch of dipshits trying to pull a fast one on Raylan? Does every bad guy in a trucker hat have to have the mind of Hannibal Lecter?
  • The problem, of course, with making each episode’s bad guy a paragon of evil is that it makes it difficult to get worked up when Raylan runs said bad guy over. Twice.
  • That’s really my only complaint about this subtly beautiful episode. My favorite kind of Justified scenes are when characters who aren’t totally familiar with one another spend time together. The scenes in the car between Raylan and Rachel, and in the back office of the bar with Johnny and Devil, crackled because we don’t know these duos’ beats and tricks. There are plenty of (highly enjoyable) regular duels on this show — Raylan and Boyd, Raylan and Art, Raylan and Winona — so it was nice to see the chemistry shaken up.
  • But then again, they call them classics for a reason. Timothy Olyphant was largely relegated to straight man (or straighter man, I guess) in this episode. But his saloon soliloquy to Boyd, about when he and his father first met Ellstin Limehouse, was fantastic. (“Maybe he’s kicked so many white boys’ asses he just ain’t keeping track no more.”) If you have it on DVR, go back and watch the scene again and just watch Walton Goggins do an excellent job at listening.
  • Neil McDonough’s Carpetbagger character has been a little more flash than bang this season. But this was the first time the writers seemed to embrace his used car salesman charisma. And McDonough, who has been a bit all over the place in his performance thus far, savors the moment, turning in an excellent Alec Baldwin from Glengarry Glen Ross imitation in the episode’s first scene.

The Aftertaste

MVP: Loretta McCready. Holy shit, Kaitlyn Dever. We mentioned Loretta earlier on as a character, one who has been left behind, getting her moment in the spotlight. Well, she only gets about one minute of screen time, pointing Raylan in the right direction, trading some sardonic lines with the marshal about her “drug empire.” But it’s what happens between those lines that counts. Dever and Olyphant express so much without speaking: the guilt Raylan has for putting her in a foster home, the anger Loretta has for being there, balanced out with the gratitude she feels toward him for saving her life. Dever goes toe-to-toe with Olyphant and never blinks. It’s a minor encounter and a quick little moment, but it’s one of my absolute favorites of the young season.

Hat Content: Steady as she goes.

Raylan’s Love Interest Threat Level: I guess Winona is really just spending a lot of time checking out the housing market.

State of Boyd Crowder’s Soul: Increasingly pragmatic. Boyd does a little bit of everything in this episode. He listens, he learns, and he shoots Devil in the chest. You can see the many faces of this occasionally schizo character come out at various times: the preacher, the poet, the prisoner. Perhaps unfortunately for Justified‘s purposes, my favorite Boyd is the one who is somewhat friendly with Raylan. It may not be very tense, but it’s tremendous TV.

F-Yeah Ava Crowder Rachel Brooks: “You all up on your race relations.”

Villain of the Week: The prison nurse. I think the Corrections Department might want to start running more thorough background checks?

Best Line: “Maybe I’m doing this babysitting gig to throw off the authorities.” —Loretta McCready